By: Joe Messineo

Grading the Trade: Mets Acquire Neil Walker


The New York Mets thought they knew exactly how to solve their infield problems. For a team in need of improved defensive play, a left-handed bat, and support at three infield positions, the obvious fit was free agent IF/OF (and “super utility man”) Ben Zobrist. Well, so much for that: the Chicago Cubs swooped in and signed Zobrist to a four year deal, leaving the Mets out in the cold.

The Mets didn’t wait long to respond, though. They promptly shipped LHP Jon Niese out of town in order to bring back 2B Neil Walker, formerly of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Mets have their guy now, and the Pirates have a pitcher with team options for the next few years. Who won this trade, if anyone? Let’s take a look.

The Trade

Mets get: 2B Neil Walker

Pirates get: LHP Jon Neise

The Players

Neil Walker: Mets fans might get a little bit of déjà vu watching Neil Walker play, because he’s actually extremely similar to 2B Daniel Murphy, who the Mets lost to free agency this offseason. Walker gets on base a little less often but has a bit more pop when he makes contact. He’s been worth between 2.0 and 4.0 WAR every year for the past half-decade. Statistically speaking, he’s another Murphy; and contractually speaking, he’s much more of a bargain. Walker will be a free agent after this season, so the Mets won’t have to commit to him. And at 30, Walker is actually slightly younger than Murphy.

Jon Niese: Niese is a solid back-of-the-rotation lefty with a 3.91 career ERA. Last season, he showed that he can pitch in relief, which makes him a good option for playoff-bound teams that may have to relegate him to the bullpen in October. Niese is 29 years old, so he still has some prime years left. That’s good for the Priates, because Niese’s contract includes team options for 2017 and 2018. He’s worth a little less in terms of WAR than Walker, but he can be controlled for more years if his team desires.

Grading the Trade

Mets: B+

For a Plan B, this deal looks pretty darn good for the Mets. Walker replaces Daniel Murphy at a lower price than Murphy will cost on the open market, and the Mets are only on the hook for the single year. After that, they can turn to internal options (like Dilson Herrera, who they think will be ready in 2017). They gave up Niese, but they didn’t have much room for him in the first place: when Zack Wheeler returns to the rotation mid-season next year, the Mets would presumably have moved Wheeler to the bullpen anyway.

Pirates: B+

The Pirates have other middle infield options, and they just swapped a one-year deal for a team-friendly deal with two team options. Niese will fit nicely into their rotation, and the options will give them the flexibility they need to keep their window open in the years to come. This is an extremely even trade and works out well for both teams. The only way to get a higher grade than this is to rip off the other team.

About Joe Messineo

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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